Often Partisan

Birmingham Senior Cup v Highgate Utd

Highgate United 1 v Birmingham City XI 2

A bitterly cold Coppice ground saw a young Birmingham City side run out as eventual winners against Midland Football Alliance side Highgate United in their Birmingham Senior Cup Quarter Final tie.

Blues named a young side, with only Redmond, Shroot and O’Shea having any BCFC first team experience, in a 4-5-1 formation with recent loan returnee Luke Hubbins playing the lone role up front, ably supported by Robin Shroot and Nathan Redmond marauding down the wings. On a bobbly pitch in fairly cold conditions, it made for a scrappy game as neither side particularly managed to penetrate into forward areas; although Will Packwood did force the Highgate keeper into a smart stop early on.

Indeed, most of Blues chances seemed to come from range, and Nathan Redmond set the tone for what was a frustrating night for him by blasting over when there was probably more chance to advance forwards into the opposition box.

Blues opened the scoring from a smart counter attack, springing from a Highgate corner. Redmond and Shroot found themselves alone with the ball in the opposition half and there was only going to be one result as Shroot advanced on the Highgate keeper, who had decided to stay back rather than be caught in no man’s land, with Shroot calmly giving the keeper “the eyes” before slotting it home.

The non-league side didn’t let their heads drop, and Ian Mitchell, who at 42 was easily old enough to be the dad of pretty much all the Blues team, won the ball in the area ahead of Jake Butland with a deft header. Unfortunately, it took him a little too far wide, and the Blues defence was able to scramble back in time to clear before Mitchell could score.

Blues were nowhere near as direct, and seemed to be content trying to walk the ball in. Whilst they did play some neat passing triangles – especially down the left between Packwood, Luke Rowe and Shroot – they lacked the penetration to get in behind a defence that was back in numbers for every attack. Redmond tried his best down the right to get in behind the left back, but whilst his step-overs were numerous and excellent his final ball let him down somewhat. This was to be to their cost as Highgate equalised on the stroke of half time; a deep cross by their number 6 headed home by their number 7 with Butland nowhere.

Unfortunately the queue for the half time bovril was somewhat held up by the lady in front of me ordering tea for her half of the stand, and by the time I got back to my vantage point the game had already restarted. Again, Blues were on top without much to show for it; indeed Redmond and Packwood got into it a bit after a wayward Packwood pass didn’t make it to Redmond who was well clear of the Highgate defence. Reece Fleet also blasted over from distance, and as the cold set in the worry was that we were going to have to stick around for extra time and penalties.

In saying that, the crowd were enjoying themselves, with one section singing to the referee Sarah Garratt that her posterior was too large for her shorts; whilst one of my erstwhile friends was taking advantage of having a smartphone by watching the Barcelona – Arsenal tie on it.

The breakthrough for Blues eventually came after a substitution, with forward Omar Bogle coming on for right back Jakub Hronec; Fleet slotted in on the right side of defence and Blues looked to go 4-4-2. The goal came after Shroot’s drive was parried by the keeper into Redmond’s path, who centred for Bogle to knock the ball into an empty net. Shortly after Luke Hubbins went off with a knock, and Blues reverted to a 4-5-1 with Fleet moving to Right back and the second sub (who I believe was Hales) came into the centre of midfield.

Highgate threw men forwards, but it was to no avail as Birmingham City held firm, and only a brave block by the Highgate number 2 denied Hales from scoring a third; O’Shea seemed determined to take on the entire Highgate team when it seemed easier to take a shot. Blues were actually the more likely to score towards the end, as superior fitness started to show; Bogle in particular looked to offer Blues a presence up front that had been lacking and with a little more finesse could have added to his tally.

The final whistle eventually came to loud cheers from the frozen Blues support, and the Blues team looked happy enough with a scrappy win.

Team:

Butland, Hronec (Bogle), Rowe, Fleet, Hutchison, Kerr, Redmond, Packwood, Hubbins (Hales), O’Shea, Shroot

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